Ezekiel Emanuel had an interesting essay in The Atlantic this fall on why he wants to die at 75. Basically - by then he think he'll have lived a full life and doesn't want to be a burden on his family and loved ones. Researchers find that as life expectancy rises there is an increase in 'the absolute number of years lot to disability' which is not surprising - as we get older, we get sicker. Health care, Emanuel argues, is not slowing the aging process, it's merely slowing the dying process. I think the health care system is deeply broken in regards to its approach to end of life care and promoting immortality is poor policy and poor science. But Emanuel may over sell the point. Certainly 75-year-olds shouldn't assume to live as they did at age 30 or 50, but isn't there something to be said for embracing the vulnerabilities and wisdom that come with growing old? Isn't there something to be said for younger generations investing in and caring for their parents and grandparents?
But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.